Lecture by Yasir Qadhi | Transcribed by Sameera
[The following is the video and transcript of part 9 of Shaykh Yasir Qadhi’s lecture series “The Best of Stories: Pearls from Surah Yusuf.” The transcript includes slight modifications for the sake of readability and clarity.]
We had reached the point of the surah in which the brothers of Yusuf enter.
Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) says, “The brothers of Yusuf came.”
From these three or four words, there is a whole paragraph of what happened. What we can surmise from these three or four words is that a number of years have gone by, and the drought has spread in all of Egypt and the surrounding lands all the way to Filistine. The people are suffering from a drought. By the time the drought reaches Filistine, they run out of their food, so people are sending their relatives and friends to Egypt to get the grain.
What this shows is that Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) was doing a superb and marvelous job of managing the resources of the country. He was so good that other countries were getting their grain from Egypt. Egypt has so much surplus. They have enough and can even trade with other people.
A number of years have gone by from the seven. Perhaps we are in the fifth year or the sixth year; Allah does not mention because we don’t need to know. It is definitely not the early years because the drought has spread and people are now desperate and coming to Egypt to get the grain. This shows us how perfect of a manager and financial minister Yusuf was.
Indeed as Yusuf said, “Inni hafeedhun ‘aleem. (I know what I’m doing, and I will be a good administrator.)”
“The brothers of Yusuf came. They entered upon him, and of course he recognized them, but they had no idea this was Yusuf.”
These are the same people and they are dressed in the same clothes. They are speaking in Hebrew. How could he not recognize them? He recognizes all ten of them. They had no idea this was Yusuf. How could they possibly know? Who could imagine that this child of seven, eight, nine was now the minister and the most powerful man in Egypt? Additionally, Yusuf is dressed in the garb of the Egyptians and speaking the language of the Egyptians. The scholars say that when they spoke in Hebrew, even though Yusuf understood, he put a translator in the middle because how would he speak Hebrew unless he was one of them.
There is simply no indication that this might have been Yusuf. He recognized them immediately, and they had no knowledge. They didn’t see through who Yusuf was. To them, Yusuf was an unknown entity. Why did they go to Yusuf? Not everybody would be trading with Yusuf obviously. Yusuf is the minister. The people of Egypt would not enter into the palace and trade with the minister.
The reason is because they were foreigners, number one. They required a higher delegation. Number two, they were asking for a large quantity. They were not just asking for a handful, but they were asking for all of their family back in Egypt, and by this time, they must have a few hundred people. Remember, back then each of them has a few wives, and they have children. These are 11 sons of Ya‘qub (‘alayhi salaam), and all of these eleven are adults, and each one has two, three, or four wives. They must have a family of a hundred or one hundred and fifty.
They are coming to Egypt, and they want to purchase a large quantity of grain, and they are foreigners, so they don’t get to interact with the lower tradesmen. They are sent higher up until they get to Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) himself. The scholars say that when he recognized them, he began asking them questions: Who are you? Why are you coming to our land? You are foreigners.
They told their whole story: “We are a group of people living in Palestine. We are all brothers, and we have a father.” “How many brothers are you?” “We used to be twelve, but a wolf ate one of them, and the eleventh one, his full brother, is still with his father.” He kept on questioning to get the full details of the story.
“After he had prepared for them their jahhaz…”
Jahhaz here means their provisions they needed for the journey. Notice that after he has given them all their grain, he gives them extra. “Go take some food for the journey.” He helped them to get ready back. It is said that they stayed in Egypt for a few days, and he treated them honorably and very generously.
“When he prepared for them all the food they needed for the journey, he tells them, ‘Bring back this brother you have mentioned.’”
Why should they bring him back? Yusuf is saying, “I don’t know if you are telling the truth or not. You are saying you have an eleventh brother. Bring him to me next time. If you are truthful, then show me this guy. If your story is all legitimate, then bring this eleventh younger brother of yours.” He enticed them. “Don’t you see that I gave you your full weight? I gave you your money’s worth. Nobody else at this time is going to give you this quantity of grain for whatever you came with. I gave you generously. I filled it to the brim, and nobody would do that. And I am the most generous of hosts. Don’t doubt my intention. You see how generous I am and you see how good I was to you. Don’t doubt my intention, but I don’t know who you are. I want to check your story. Bring back that eleventh brother of yours.”
Of course, these are his blood brothers, and he treats them in the best fashion. Even though they came as merchants, he hosted them and gave them food and drink and gave them a place to stay. Then, he tells them:
“But in case you don’t bring him back, you will never be able to get any more grain, and you will not even be able to come close.”
This means that they will not even be able to come into this land. The will be banned until they bring their eleventh brother. He gave them the carrot and the stick. He enticed them and he warned them. The enticing was done by saying, “Look how generous I am. Look how I treated you.” Then he warned them, “If you don’t bring back this eleventh brother, then give up hope of getting any more food from us.”
The scholars really talk a lot about why Yusuf would do this. Why would Yusuf take his younger brother knowing that he is going to keep him in the palace and then the father will be deprived of him and Binyamin? The scholars give many reasons, but there is really only one reason that is logical, and that is Allah ‘azza wa jall told him to do this. This was the plan of Allah. What was the wisdom? Allah knows best, but it was to affirm Ya‘qub’s faith in Allah (subhanahu wata’ala), and perhaps, some scholars say, Binyamin was maybe not in threat but was not being treated properly. His father was now old and blind, and the older brothers are now treating Binyamin in a very harsh manner, and Allah wanted to save Binyamin as well and bring him into Egypt.
He tells the brothers, “I am so generous, and if you want to come back, then prove your story and bring your eleventh brother; otherwise, there is nothing for you over here.”
They said, “We will coax his father…”
Notice they said ‘his father’ and not ‘our father.’ You can sense the jealousy already, and they know how much Ya‘qub loves Binyamin. They say, “We are going to try to convince his father to let go of him.” They know that they don’t have the same love, and so there is this hurt and pain that they have. You can sense this distance. They should have said ‘our father,’ but they said ‘his father.’
“…and we will do it.”
They have done worse, and they can do this. They know it. They have their tactics. Here you get a little bit of arrogance, if you like. They are so sure and certain that “Yes, we can bring Binyamin as well.”
“And Yusuf told his servants, ‘Put their merchandise [whether it was gold coins, or maybe they brought tanned leather]…” In those days, money was not as common as bartering (buying and selling what you have with what he has). You are from one land and have honey, and the other land has grapes. You give your honey for the grapes. Maybe it wasn’t money, but maybe it was money because you are allowed to call bidha‘ah money, but primarily bidha‘ah is merchandise.
He says, “Put their merchandise back in their bags.”
Remember, the servants are giving grain. They are giving big bags of grain to these people to take back to their father. The servants are packing the bags. Yusuf tells his servants, “Return their merchandise and put it in the bag. They will recognize or know or see when they go back to their people so that they may possibly come back.”
Why did he return the merchandise? He says clearly, “I want them to come back.” Obviously, this is his own family. How can he charge his father for what he is about to do. It is fard ‘ayn on him to take care of his father. How can he charge his brothers and his father? Also, there is element of that he knew that they were so poor, so if he takes this merchandise, they will not be able to come for a round two because this is all they have. Also, there is the issue of if he returns them a favor or he does them a favor, and if he shows them generosity, then he will calm their fears down. He will make sure that they are certain that the minister is true and just.
As the saying goes “if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” when anybody does us a favor, we feel like we should return it. He sent them a request of ‘bring me your younger brother,’ and then he gives them a favor of all of this grain worth so much money. You can imagine that these are ten brothers that have come, and he gives them ten camel loads. A camel load will feed maybe 50 people maybe of grain. Fifty people or more will be able to eat from one camel load. He gave them a lot of grain, and he gave it for free.
Somebody might ask, “What gives him the right to give it for free?” Well, maybe he paid for it from his own money, or we do not know the agreement that he had with the king, and maybe this was his right that he could sell and buy with whatever price as he saw fit. Certainly, by this time, the king trusts him with everything, and so it is his legal right to charge exorbitant fees to somebody and to give it for free to somebody else if the king has given him this right.
In any case, we affirm that he is a prophet of Allah, and whatever he did, he is doing fully with justice. Either he paid with his own money, or more likely, by the time this story happens, he is so trusted that he has the legal authority to charge people according to their needs. He will charge the rich more and he will charge his family nothing, and he is legally allowed to do this. So, he says, “Put their merchandise back so that we can cause them to come back.” He builds their trust, assuages their fears, and he gives them a favor. It is human nature that once somebody has given you a favor, you want to pay it back.
“When they returned to their father, they said, ‘O our father, we have been denied any measure…’”
SubhanAllah, this is melodrama at its peak. They haven’t been denied. They are coming back with ten loads of grain, but they are being melodramatic here. You can imagine, they haven’t even unpacked the bags. They burst home and the first thing they say melodramatically is, “We don’t have any grain! We weren’t allowed to get any grain! You have to give us our younger brother so that we can gain some more grain. And surely / certainly, we shall guard him.” This is the same phrase they said of Yusuf: wa inna lahu lahaafidhoon. They had said the exact same phrase, and now they say it to Binyamin.
This clearly shows their eagerness and hastiness. They must have been talking along the way about how much grain they got for how little merchandise, the generosity of Yusuf not knowing that he is Yusuf, and about how they can do this again and that he will be just as generous and that all he wants is their younger brother. What is the way to get their father to agree? They simply have this melodramatic emotional appeal. “We don’t have any more grain, and we have been denied grain. You must send our younger brother!” They must have told him the whole story that the minister is demanding that they bring their younger brother, and then they will be able to get their measure.
“He said, ‘Should I trust you with him just like I trusted you with his brother before? Should I do the same now all over again?’”
The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “The mu’min is not stung from the same hole twice.” This means is not stung from the same hole twice.” This means Ya‘qub (‘alayhi salaam) is saying, “You have done this to me once before. Do you think that I’m that foolish that I will let you take Binyamin as well?” This shows that all of these years have gone by and he still has, number one, not gotten over Yusuf, and number two, he knows these sons of his have done something, and that is why he is still blaming them. He doesn’t believe the story of the wolf.
“Should I send you with him and trust you with him just I like I entrusted his brother with you? Forget this grain! I don’t need this grain from this minister. Allah will take care of us. Allah is the best protector. He will have mercy on our situation. He sees we need food, and He will provide for us.”
This shows us that tawakkul means – and we will come to this today and later on as well – that you strive to achieve the means. You do what you need to in order to get to the goal, but it doesn’t mean that you act foolishly. Here, Ya‘qub feels that if he gives Binyamin over that he is acting foolishly, and so he says, “I’m not going to do this again. Allah knows my situation that I don’t think that this is a wise course of action. Allah is the best of all of those who protect.”
Of the Names of Allah is Al-Haafidh, and Al-Haafidh here means the One who Protects. He is saying, “Allah will protect us. I am not worried about grain running short because I have my trust in Allah (subhanahu wata’ala), and He is the Most Merciful of all who have mercy.”
This shows us that it is a part and parcel of human nature to take people’s reputation into account. The brothers have done damage, their reputation is smeared, and he is not going to let them do this again. It is human nature that you judge a person by his character and by his reputation. They tried and tried to convince, but it didn’t work because they themselves have ruined their reputation.
When we apply for a job, what do we do? We talk about our reputation and have letters of reference and talk about our credentials. If this is the case for the dunya, then how about the deen? Don’t you think that then our religious reputation will also then be used for our credit in Jannahj? When we apply to get into Jannah on the Day of Judgment, what will Allah ‘azza wa jall look at? Our reputation and our credentials and what we have done. This is the way humanity works that you look at a man’s own character and see what he has done in the past. His sons have done this crime once, and he has not forgiven them, so he says, “No, I am not going to do this one more time.”
You can imagine, they keep on trying and coaxing, but he is not going to budge. Now the plan of Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) comes into action.
“When they unpacked all of the bags…”
They were so hasty that they didn’t even unpacked all of the bags, and this shows us how hasty they were. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Being hasty is from Shaytan.” It is Shaytan who acts impulsively. It is Shaytan who does things at a quick pace. When one of the noblemen accepted Islam (Hakim ibn Hizam), the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “You have in you two characteristics that Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) loves: forbearance and acting after you think / acting rationally.” Acting impulsively is from Shaytan, and acting with thought and with meditation is something Allah and His Messenger love.
Automatically, we are seeing the impulsiveness of the brothers of Yusuf and they come in and start screaming and being melodramatic and when all fails, they go and they open the bags.
“When they open their bags, they found their merchandise had been returned to them.”
All of their merchandise is there. They know that this is not an accident. Yusuf’s people working for him have packed the bags, and there is no way they gave the money to Yusuf and now it ends up from Yusuf into their bags except that Yusuf wanted this to happen, so they know that this is all the design of the minister.
“They said, ‘O our father, maa nabghi.’”
Maa nabghi here can have two meanings. It can mean “What more can we desire? What more do you think we want? Here is our merchandise. Do you think we are trying to trick you?” The other meaning is: “We don’t want any evil. We don’t want anything other than our brother and getting this grain.”
One meaning can be “what else do you think we want?” and the other meaning is “we don’t want any evil.” There are two types of maa in the Arabic language, and both of them can be assumed over here. The point is they are saying, “We have no other intention. We have no other desire except for this grain. Our goods have been returned to us. What do you think our agenda is? What do you think we are planning? What story do you think we have concocted when what we have said is true that the minister is so generous and the minister is giving us so much and now he has returned our money. Where is the plot? We don’t have anything. We are completely clean.”
They say three things:
1. Wa nameeru ahlana. Nameer here means “We are going to provide food for our families. We need food.”
2. Wa nahfudhu akhaana. “And we will protect our brother.”
3. wa nazdaadu kayla ba‘eer. “And we will increase the weight of one camel.”
“That is so easy for us.”
Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) in his wisdom refused to give anybody more than a camel could hold. This was the max that a person could take. He would not give anybody more than a camel load. Even his own brothers did not get more than a camel. They got a full camel but not more. One person, one camel. They said, “Send the eleventh brother and we will have eleven camels. Once we have eleven camels, how much food do we have for our families. And we will protect him. There will be the eleventh camel as well that will bring food back.”
“Dhaalika kaylun yaseer. (How easy! How much food for how little!)”
Some fiqh points can be derived over here. There are some trivial fiqh points that we derive. There are explicit evidences that also prove these fiqh points, but this story has some interesting fiqh benefits that we can derive from it as well. There is no problem in deriving fiqh benefits from stories in the Qur’an because Allah speaks the truth, and Allah praises the actions of the prophets. Everything that the prophets do, we can derive legal lessons from them as well.
Of the legal lessons that we derive from this particular transaction is that some of the more strict scholars (the Shafi‘i madhab by and large) have said that for any transaction to be valid, you must verbalize the transaction. So you say, “I am selling you this car,” and you say, “I accept this car.” This is true in marriage contracts, for example, and you must verbalize: “I am marrying my daughter to you,” and “I accept this.” You can write it, but there must be something apparent.
The Shafi‘i scholars said that this applies to everything, and you must have a verbal understanding. This story shows that you can also have a mutual understanding that is not verbal if you know that the person will agree. For example – this is not common in America, but back home you can imagine the smaller stores on the corner of the street, you pick up your bottle of water and throw the money to the shopkeeper and you walk out, and the shopkeeper takes it and doesn’t have to say anything. Here in America, they scan the item and they do this and that, so the transaction is a little bit more formal and official, but as you know, not everywhere in the world are there these fancy things. Do you have to verbalize “I am purchasing this glass of water for 50 cents, and here are the 50 cents,” and he takes it and says, “I have received the 50 cents, you may take the water.” Some scholars would say you have some type of equivalent, but the stronger position is no when you understand that a transaction is taking place. Yusuf’s transaction is ‘take this for free and you get all of the grain from me.’
Also, we see that it is permissible to give extra merchandise to the same person who sold it to you. It is permissible to return the buyer’s money and give the merchandise for free. This is something that our Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) demonstrated for us in a very beautiful hadith, which is exactly what Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) did with his brothers. He did it with Jaabir ibn ‘Abdullah.
Jaabir ibn ‘Abdullah was a young companion probably around 16 or 17 years old, and his father had died in the Battle of Uhud, and he left a debt. He died a shahid, but he left a debt, and Jaabir had seven sisters and was the only male. Remember the story of Jaabir marrying an elderly lady because he wanted his wife to take care of his younger sisters. On the return from the next expedition after Uhud, Jaabir is coming back, and he is very distressed and distraught, and he is worried about how he is going to pay his father’s loans and how he is going to take care of his sisters and how he will get them married, etc. He doesn’t have much money. To make matters worse, he has a very old camel that is struggling to keep up with the army.
The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) notices that right at the end of the whole army is Jaabir, struggling along in the back. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) slows his own camel down and lets the army go forward until Jaabir catches up. Now, hold on a second – Jaabir is just a kid. He is not Abu Bakr and ‘Umar. He is not ‘Uthman and ‘Ali. He is in the grand scheme of things a nobody. He just a kid at this time, and a teenager. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) slows his own camel down so that he can talk with Jaabir.
He says to Jaabir, “What is the matter, O Jaabir?” Jaabir says, “O Messenger of Allah, you know that my father died and left so much dayn and this and that. And on top of this, look at my camel. It can hardly walk. All of you are way up there, and look at this camel here. It can hardly walk.” The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) made du‘a, and he hit the camel. The camel began galloping faster than any other camel in the whole army. It became the strongest and fastest camel. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) caught up with Jaabir. After this, the camel has gone from being an old, used car to being a Mercedes, let’s say. Camels are a source of life. They give you food, and they give you milk and so much. It is far more important than what we value a car; it is a living a creature.
The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) after he does this to Jaabir, he says, “O Jaabir, sell me the camel.” The camel is the most precious item that Jaabir owns, and it has just increased its value ten-fold by one smack of the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam). If it was worth fifty, it is now worth five hundred. Jaabir has seven sisters on his head, so he says, “No, Messenger of Allah, I cannot.” He refuses the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) when he is saying, “Sell me the camel.” This shows that when he refused the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam), refused him as a purchaser and not as a prophet. This is not kufr. He understood the difference.
The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) wants to be a buyer. He is not commanding him like Rasulullah. He is just purchasing and saying, “Sell me the camel.” Jaabir says, “La Rasulullah. I can’t,” because he has responsibility on his head. He has sisters to take care of, and this is his only money that he has. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) remained quiet and then after a few minutes said, “O Jaabir, sell me the camel.” “No, Rasulullah, I cannot.” He remained quiet. Twenty times he said, “O Jaabir, sell me the camel.” “No, Rasulullah.” Until finally, Jaabir said, “I have sold you the camel, ya Rasulullah. But give me one condition, O Messenger of Allah. At least let me ride it until I get home. Don’t cause me to walk.” The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) smiled and said, “Okay.” This shows that you are allowed to put reasonable conditions on the buyer. So if you sell your car and are leaving town next week, you say, “I am selling you the car, but I am going to drive it for one week and then give it to you.” These are conditions that are allowed.
They arrived at the city the next day. Jaabir ibn ‘Abdullah was very sad, and he does not want to sell his camel. He walks to the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam)’s masjid, and the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) tells Bilal, “Give him the agreed money.” He gives the money. Jaabir walks away with his shoulders down, and he is very sad. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Where are you going?” He said, “I am going back home.” He said, “But your camel?” He said, “I thought you bought it?” He said, “O Jaabir, do you think I would take your camel from you? Go with your money and your camel.”
SubhanAllah, what is he trying to do? He is trying to give Jaabir money without making it feel like it is charity. It is a whole tactic. “O Jaabir, do you really think that I was going to take your camel from you?” sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam. And so he gave Jaabir the camel and the money.
This is exactly what Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) has done. He gave back the merchandise along with all of the grain that they had purchased. Now they have shown their case, and they have demonstrated that they have a legitimate case to take the younger brother.
Ya‘qub says, “I will never send you with him until you give me a solemn oath (mawthiq) in the Name of Allah that you are surely going to bring him back to me. Unless you are completely surrounded, are overwhelmed, or [in one interpretation] all of you are destroyed.”
All of this is extra emphasis in the Arabic language – the nun, the laam in lata’tunnani. The laam is emphasis and the nun is emphasis.
The father understands and here we find the wisdom of Yusuf for doing what he did. If Yusuf had not returned the merchandise, there is no way that his father would have allowed Binyamin to go with his brothers, and Yusuf knows it will take convincing to allow Binyamin to come, and so he returns the merchandise and Ya‘qub says to give a solemn oath in the Name of Allah (subhanahu wata’ala).
And of course, giving an oath in the Name of Allah is something that is a very, very serious matter in our religion. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) has very strongly and harshly warned against a false oath. To give a false oath is one of the major sins in Islam – to use the Name of Allah in vain and to use the Name of Allah while you lie or while you cheat. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) told us of a beautiful story of ‘Isa ibn Maryam (Jesus Christ) that ‘Isa ibn Maryam was passing by and saw a merchant steal something. This is an authentic hadith, and the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) is telling us a story. To the best of my knowledge, this story is not found in the Christian sources, so this is a fact of Jesus Christ’s life that we know and the Christians don’t know. Jesus Christ (‘Isa ibn Maryam) said, “Why did you steal this? Do you not fear Allah?” The merchant was so embarrassed, he said, “Wallahi, I didn’t steal it.” When he said ‘wallahi‘, ‘Isa replied, “I believe in Allah, and I reject what my eyes have seen. If you swear by Allah, then I believe you because you used His Name. I’d rather believe you and reject my eyes because you used His Name out of respect to the Name of Allah.” Of course, this is ‘Isa ibn Maryam, the perfection.
In our times, unfortunately we need a little bit more convincing. ‘Isa ibn Maryam was so respectful. He said, “If you are going to mention Allah’s Name, khalas. I believe Allah, not you. I believe Allah and I reject what my eyes have seen.” There are many other ahadith about giving oaths and fulfilling oaths and the danger of going against oaths. There is a whole chapter in fiqh about oaths. There is a whole chapter in every book of fiqh about oaths, swearing, giving solemn oaths.
Ya‘qub is a prophet, and he has taught his children about the importance of Allah and the Names of Allah. He knows that they would never swear by Allah and then go against that. He gives them the solemn oath, and then he says, “And Allah is the Wakil (Witness) over all that we have said and done.”
“And he said, ‘O my sons, don’t enter from one door. Enter from different doors.’”
In those days, cities were surrounded by fortresses and walls – every single city on earth – because wars were common. The lands that we live in now are lands of peace by and large. There are demarcated borders. There is a border between America and Mexico and America and Canada. Once upon a time, there were no borders, and you could expect an attack at any time. Life was very difficult back then. It included Makkah and Madinah. If you look at photographs of Makkah and Madinah that were taken 100 years ago, you find walls around the whole cities.
He said, “Don’t enter by one gate, but rather, enter by different gates. And what I am telling you to do will not help you at all against Allah. The decision rests with Allah. In Him I put my trust, and let everybody who puts there trust put their trust in Allah.”
Now, what is entering one door versus entering different doors all about? What Ya‘qub (‘alayhi salaam) is trying to protect them from two things:
1. The first is the legitimate suspicion that would come upon them. These are eleven men, and eleven is a large number for that time. These are eleven people walking into a strange town. There are no passports and no police and no government that will take care of you. These eleven people don’t belong to another government that they will now exert their effort. This is a modern nation state. We need to understand that the world was a very different place. These are eleven strangers literally at the mercy of the government that they are walking into, which is the government of the ministry of Yusuf (‘alayhi salaam) and the king at that time. He wants to make sure that the people don’t get suspicious of eleven men from a certain town or tribe coming in. They may think: Are they spies? He has already heard that the king thinks that these are spies. He is saying, “Don’t all go in together. You will attract attention. Enter different doors. Everyone enters from a different gate, and then you can meet together at your place of residence in your hotel, but don’t draw the attention of the people because it is causing suspicion.”
Therefore, from this we derive that the mu’min does not act foolishly. The mu’min acts wisely and does not bring undue attention to himself. The mu’min does not do anything that will bring about undue suspicion and attention.
In a famous story, the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) was once walking with his wife Safiyyah at night. Two of the sahabah passed by and when they saw that the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) was with his wife, like any man at that time and even today, they lowered their gaze and rushed forward, meaning they did not want to disturb the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) with his family. When the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) saw them walking fast away, he said, “Slow down. This is only Safiyyah,” meaning it is not a strange woman and he is not with somebody who is not his wife or relative. They were just shocked and could only say, “SubhanAllah. Ya Rasulullah, how could we assume anything else?” The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Verily, Shaytan runs through the son of Adam like his blood. I just want to clarify this is my wife, and don’t think anything else.” SubhanAllah, here is Rasulullah (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) walking in his own city in Madinah, and he is with his wife, and he wants to make sure everything is clear and no one is thinking anything else. No suspicion because the Shaytan runs through the son of Adam like his blood does.
Ya‘qub wants to make sure his children don’t come under any suspicion. Therefore, we as Muslims should not do undue things that will bring undue attention or suspicion upon ourselves for no legitimate reason. Wallahi, this is very, very true, especially in the world that we live in now in post 9/11 America. We should act wisely. Some people want to act foolishly and do things that will bring about undue attention upon themselves, and I don’t think that this is what our religion requires of us.
I will give you a simple example. These days even if you pray at the airport… I travel quite a lot relatively speaking. I make it a point to try to pray in the chapel of the airport even if it means I have to walk for 20 or 30 minutes to find the chapel because just to pray in front of the gate, at one time it might have been good daw‘ah, but these days it is a reason to call 911 and it is not good daw‘ah anymore. There is no point. You have to pray, then go ahead and pray. And if I don’t find a chapel, then I go and find a corner and I tell a guard or local person, “Look, I’m just going to be praying over here.” Or if I don’t even find this, then I go to a gate other than the gate I am boarding the plane from because I don’t want my own fellow passengers to start freaking out that I am praying in front of them before I go. If I have to and if there is no other choice, then I will just go to an empty gate and usually there are people of the airport there, and you just tell them, “Look I am going to be praying my prayers.” I always make it a point to tell one person at least in case somebody comes that “Look, I have to pray. I am just praying over here.” I have found no problem whatsoever taking a little bit of caution and wisdom. I have never found any issue in doing this. If you have to pray in public, you pray in public. You don’t sacrifice the salah because you are embarrassed. But if you don’t, I think this is part of entering doors from different ways. When there is a chapel, and when there is a place to pray, then pray like this. Use your common sense and use this principle in this land to the greatest extent possible.
So the first reason Ya‘qub tells his children is common sense: suspicion.
2. The second reason is to protect his children from ‘ayn (evil eye). This is something that all the mufasirun mention. Ya‘qub (‘alayhi salaam) wanted to protect his children from the evil eye. This leads us to the issue of the evil eye. What is this evil eye? What is al-‘ayn? Is it a reality? Is it superstition? The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) has said in an authentic hadith, “The evil eye is true.” This story of Ya‘qub as well proves it. There is a reason why he does not want his eleven children to enter together. Why? All of these are sons. For one man to have eleven sons is a big blessing and honor, especially at that time when sons are of great value. These are all full brothers, and they are all the children of Ya‘qub, and they are all very handsome. They are all from a foreign race – the race of Bani Isra‘il which is just starting now. Isra‘il is Ya‘qub. This is a new race that is starting, a new ethnicity. They are all, masha’Allah, young, powerful, strong men. Who is not going to get jealous amongst the people of Egypt when they find this new race and they are all speaking a language and looking differently and dressing differently. He is worried about ‘ayn.
What is ‘ayn?
What exactly is ‘ayn? There are only five or six ahadith about ‘ayn. There are indirect references in the Qur’an to ‘ayn. Put together, we as ahl’l-sunnah wa’l-jama‘ah believe that there is a reality called ‘ayn. Some of the progressives and modernists don’t like anything that their mind does not understand, so they deny it. ‘Ayn seems to be very true and real from the Qur’an and from the Sunnah.
As for from the Qur’an, we have a clear verse that we seek refuge – wa min sharri haasidin idha hasad. And if the hasad of the haasid had no effect, then why should we care about seeking Allah’s refuge from it. Let me repeat. The very fact that we seek Allah’s refuge from the evil of the haasid when he has hasad shows us that when a person is jealous – hasad means a burning jealousy – there is an evil that will affect.
What is al-‘ayn? Al-‘ayn is the negative consequences of jealousy. It is called ‘ayn from the eyes because the number one reason to get jealous is when you look at something, but al-‘ayn has nothing to do with the eyes because you can hear about something and get jealous. You don’t have to necessarily look at it. It is not like an invisible Superman beam of ray that comes out. This is not al-‘ayn. Al-‘ayn is a feeling of the heart. Al-‘ayn is a burning jealousy, and it has to be a burning jealousy. This is jealousy that only an evil person allows to go unchecked. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Jealousy destroys good deeds like a fire destroys twigs or like a specific herb that destroys honey (it makes it corrupt).” Jealousy destroys hasanat. The mu’min will never allow the jealousy to go unchecked because jealousy is a filthy feeling. Even when you feel jealous, you feel filthy and think, “Why am I feeling like this?” Jealousy is a filthy feeling, and it is only the evil person who allows jealousy to go unchecked.
What happens when you allow jealousy to go unchecked? Somehow it causes an effect on the object of jealousy. How? Scholars have differed. As I said, the evidences are very little about ‘ayn. One hadith seems to suggest that the jealousy empowers Shaytan. It gives some type of fuel to Shaytan, and Shaytan can then use that fuel – because Shaytan wants to harm – to get to the other person. This seems to be the most logical, rational, and also hadith-y interpretation. How can just jealousy affect somebody? It could if Allah has decreed, and we are not denying that, but it seems that there are riwayaat that show that jealousy feeds Shaytan and the jinn. When you have so much jealousy, then you basically empower some of the jinn to go and harm the other person. It gives them the motivation and fuel they need to go and harm the other person.
The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) in an authentic hadith in Sahih Bukhari – this is one of the most authentic hadith about ‘ayn: He would seek refuge in Allah from the ‘ayn. He would say (and this du‘a is in Bukhari), “Allahumma inni a‘udhu bikalimaati’llahi al-tamm (I seek refuge in the perfect Speech of Allah) min kulli shaytanin wa hamm (from every Shaytan and from every creature that harms (i.e. scorpion, snake)) wa min kulli ‘ayni’l-laam (and from every critical eye).”
Three things are sought refuge from: Shaytan, creatures (in those days they were worried about scorpions and snakes) which is hamm, and ‘wa min kulli ayni’l-laam (and from every ‘ayn that will criticize and be jealous. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) is seeking refuge in al-‘ayn.
In a hadith in Abu Dawud and Imam Ahmad’s Musnad, he said, “Al-‘ayn is true.” It is a reality. Don’t deny it. The point is that it is not a superstition. It is a reality. We believe in ‘ayn.
Protection from ‘ayn
How do we protect ourselves from ‘ayn? Again, this is a different topic, but it is important. There are four things to protect ourselves from ‘ayn.
1. Du‘a. What du‘as are there? I just told you two du‘as. Extra recitation of Surah Falaq. Also, this particular du‘a from Sahih Bukhari. From the Qur’an and from the Sunnah, we always regularly seek protection from ‘ayn.
2. Don’t be flashy. Don’t want to show off what Allah has blessed you with. Be cautious. There is no point. You are going to cause yourself harm. The mu’min is not a show-off. The mu’min might have a lot of blessings. Eleven sons are blessings. If you have wealth, alhamdulillah, live the lifestyle that is halal, but there is no point flaunting it. There is no point making people feel jealous of it. When you do so, if you do it intentionally, then you are sinful, and whether you do intentionally or not, you will bring about people’s jealousy, and there is no point doing that. Take reasonable precautions. This will not guarantee protection from ‘ayn because even Ya‘qub says, “This is not going to protect you against Allah. I do what I can, but it is not going to protect you completely.”
3. If you yourself feel jealous and the beginnings of jealousy, get rid of that jealousy by making du‘a upon the one that you feel jealous. The best du‘a that the scholars say is: masha’Allah tabarakAllah. The evidence for this is Surah Al-Kahf and the people of the two gardens. This man was feeling ‘ujub, which is not ‘ayn, but it is the parallel its companion. He was feeling proud and “masha’Allah I’ve got all of this stuff, and it is all mine.” Don’t say ‘it is all mine.’ Say: masha’Allah wa la quwatta illa billah. Give it back to Allah.
When we feel jealous, and subhanAllah, who amongst us cannot have some fleeting jealousy? We see somebody masha’Allah wealthy or driving that fancy car or living in that mansion or primarily for the sisters they get jealous of beauty or a good marriage and somebody who is happily married. Ya‘ni it is something human nature that a fleeting emotion runs by your heart. The mu’min seeks refuge and kills that, and if it doesn’t go away, masha’Allah la quwatta illah billah – make du‘a for the person. The scholars say, by the way, that whoever causes ‘ayn will be accountable on the Day of Judgment because you allowed the hasad to grow. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said that hasad eats up your good deeds if you let it grow. Don’t think that just because you have ‘ayn that it is just a feeling in the heart. Some feelings in the heart you are accountable for, and this is one of them.
I am going into the tangent of ‘ayn because I know that it is something that everybody has questions about, and you rarely hear people talking about it, so I’m going into a little bit of a tangent, I know, but it is intentional.
The person who has ‘ayn will be sinful on the Day of Judgment because he allowed the jealousy to grow, and generally speaking, fleeting jealousy does not cause ‘ayn. It is sustained jealousy and jealousy that grows days and months and years. Wallahi only a filthy heart can allow this jealousy to grow. When it grows and becomes so corrupt and wicked, somehow the Shayateen seem to get some power and they are fueled. Allah knows their world and how it works, but they seem to be fueled by the energy and power, and it gives them the symptoms.
What happens? The exact opposite of what caused the jealousy. If a person is beautiful and others get jealous of her, then she might start having blemishes, spots or warts on her face. The fancy Jaguar you are driving may cause the men to get jealous (so childish, but anyways), might get into an accident or a serious problem or completely totaled because of the hasad and because of the ‘ayn.
Whatever was the cause of that jealousy will impact and harm it, so much so that according to one hadith, the Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Hasad and ‘ayn can even cause a man to go to the grave.” It can even cause death. This is a hadith in Abu Dawud. It is something very dangerous, and it can cause death if it is allowed to go unchecked.
The fourth thing is a little bit confusing the first time you hear it, and that is: If you know who caused the jealousy, and there are symptoms and signs that the people who do ruqyah can tell, and you sometimes see it in a dream as well. If you make du‘a to Allah to show you, then you will see the person in a dream doing something to harm you over and over again, and so this is a message from Allah that this is the one doing it. And if this person is a Muslim, then you go to this person and say (this is confusing to those hearing it for the first time), “Give me the remnants of your wudu’.” This is from a hadith in Imam Ahmad’s Musnad, and I want to say Tirmidhi, but for sure it is in Imam Ahmad’s Musnad and it is authentic. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) saw somebody suffering from the effects of ‘ayn, and he said, “Did anything happen to him?” They said, “Yes, so-and-so passed by and he seemed to be depressed and he seemed to be amazed. Ever since that, he had been suffering from sickness.” The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said, “Call that man.” They called him and he commanded him to do wudu’ in front of him. He did wudu’ into the container – in those days, the water doesn’t run into the sink, and the water remains. You do wudu’ and the water goes into the container. He said, “Take this and tell the one who is suffering to bathe in it and put it on his body.” By doing that, he immediately became pure again, and that is because wudu’ is a blessing, and wudu’ takes away evil. Wudu’ causes sins and what-not to go away. The Prophet (sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam) told the first one to repent to get over this. He didn’t say this in the hadith, but that is the meaning that ‘you are the one who caused this.’ The man should feel some guilt and do wudu’ in a repentant state. What does wudu’ do? Wudu’ removes the evil, and it is a cleansing mechanism. It brightens the person. Wudu’ gets rid of the evil, and we can imagine that whatever was there is now in the water, so we just have to give the water to the person, and the ‘ayn goes away. This can only be done if you know who did it and he is accessible and he is willing to do this for you. Only a practicing Muslim would be able to do that.
These are the four things that we can do for ‘ayn. And of course, the point being we do our precautions what we can, and in the end, as Ya‘qub said, getting back to the story, “I cannot protect you against Allah at all. Ruling and judgment belong to Allah. Allah judges and decides what is going to happen, not me. If Allah wants to cause any type of harm, I am not going to come between that. I cannot protect you. The judgment belongs to Allah. All I can do is put my trust in Him, and let all of those who put their trust put it in Allah and not in other people. Don’t put it in your tactics or what I am telling you. Put your trust in Allah (subhanahu wata’ala).”
This whole paragraph and advice demonstrates the reality of iman and tawakkul. We talked about this over and over again. Tawakkul does not mean that you just sit back and say, “Khalas, if Allah has willed, then it is going to happen.” Tawakkul means that you plan and be reasonable and think through logically and rationally, and then you do everything you possibly can.
Look at what Ya‘qub does. The first thing: “I am not going to send Binyamin with you. I will put my trust in Allah. It is foolish to send Binyamin with you.” He refuses because he is taking his precaution. This is tawakkul in the beginning. When they convince him and they show they have the bidaa‘ah, he says, “Okay, I will give you Binyamin if you swear a solemn oath, the most solemn oath that you can. Allah is witnessing. When you have given me this oath and Allah is witnessing, split up.” After the spiritual tawakkul has been done of putting trust in Allah and the oath has been done and Allah has been mentioned and the physical actions of splitting up have been done, then “khalas, I have done all that I can spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. I have done everything, and now I put my tawakkul in Allah.”
He does everything humanly possible, but in the end he says, “Look, I can’t help you. If Allah has decided something else, then that is His decision, and I will put my tawakkul in Him.” As we have said over and over again, this is the reality of tawakkul. Tawakkul means you go to the doctor, you take treatment, you eat medicine. You go to the job to get your money, you study, you do everything you can, but your heart, Allah is watching. “I cannot protect you. I know Allah’s decree will be supreme.” This is the perfection of tawakkul that you have no hope of good in any created being, and all hope of good goes to Allah (subhanahu wata’ala) and you realize that you can only do what you can, and in the end, it is up to Allah.
And with this, we come to the conclusion of today.